Songs Without Borders: Contemporary attitudes and approaches towards art song programming, presentation and consumption in the UK today
I make music. I’ve spent the past decade working as an artistic director in the creative industries, higher education and voluntary sectors, developing artistic programmes and cultural organisations.
Artistically, my work has seen me instigate and lead large-scale engagement projects, from artistic inception through to completion, be that internationally renowned musical artists or ambitious projects with local communities including children and young people.
From a business and music management perspective my work has seen me develop and implement organisational strategy, business planning, project management, marketing and audience development, and financial control and fundraising. Alongside music outputs over the past decade I have committed rigorously to my professional development. I’m a Chartered Manager (CMgr MCMI) – the highest status that can be achieved in the management profession, and hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) qualification.
Complimenting behind-the-scenes artistic direction and music management work I also enjoy a professional singing career as a tenor. I’m actively involved with sacred choral music, have held professional singing positions with a number of UK cathedral choirs, and work includes regular concert engagements, national radio broadcasts, CD recordings and international tours.
My research offers me the opportunity to combine all of this into one neat space for the first time in my life!
There is no science that exhausts the human voice
Singing is a universal experience. However, when songs are presented in the way I engage with them (as a singer, as an artistic director, and as an audience member) barriers to access emerge. The singing that has a prominent place in my life is art song - compositions that combine classical music, poetry, and are often sung in a foreign language. The current climate in the UK sees a prevailing discourse against the value of both classical music and languages; current views hold art song to be a "hard sell” and an "endangered species", with artistic leaders citing aging audiences, sporadic programming, narrowing attention spans of consumers, and a limited culture of public support.
Academic research into art song focuses largely on historical contexts and aesthetic and interpretation concerns (ie the relationships between words and music). However there are increasingly held views amongst scholars we should not only consider art song as mere ‘texts’ to be analysed under the microscope but instead as ‘events’, acknowledging art song’s wider role in cultures and societies, past, present and future.
My research looks at how art song is created and experienced today. In doing so it brings together artistic, organisational and participant voices towards art song in the first sustained analytical study into the contemporary presentation and consumption of the genre
I’m working with Oxford Lieder, the UK’s leading art song promoter alongside other UK music organisations over the next three years to examine art song in the 21st century. My research is about how and why people make choices to programme and present classical music in the way they do, how audiences for art song ‘tick’, and critically the relationship between these. In doing so I’ll be working with singers, pianists, composers, poets, translators, artistic directors, programmers, marketeers and audiences to understand art song’s place in culture and society today.
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